Monthly Archives: January 2009

Best Blogs of the Week

I’ve been ignoring my feed reader lately, so I’m spending the morning going through the many (many) posts that have been written since my last review. Lots of great stuff. Here are my favorites from the past week or two:

Forrester CEO George Colony crowd-sourced development of his social media panel at Davos next week. This is a great way to find out what people are interested in learning about right now – I’ve used this myself to generate panel questions. He got some interesting and thoughtful responses.

Two of Nick Carr’s recent posts were thought-provoking. Most recently he brought readers’ attention to William Deresiewicz’s article “The End of Solitude” in the new edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. I love the line, “Loneliness is not the absence of company, it is grief over that absence.” Carr doesn’t say much about it himself, but reader comments are interesting.

Carr’s previous post, “Sharing is Creepy,” reflects on the psychological and social consequences of social networking (do you feel remorse when you don’t put yourself out there? when you do? maybe both?) and points to a recent Wired article by Steven Levy called “The Burden of Twitter.”

John Halamka, CIO at CareGroup and Harvard Medical School (and about a dozen other things), evaluates Gartners Top 10 Predictions for 2009.  He agrees or partially agrees with most, but his reasoning adds nuance and relevant context from a man who published his personal genome on the internet, has been implanted with a chip containing his full medical records and is having a Cisco telepresence setup installed in his home.

If you’re interested in social media, Chris Brogan is worth following on a regular basis. Two recent posts stand out. One I personally need to act on is his review of Leo Babuta’s book “The Power of Less.” Babuta advocates that you do one thing at a time, don’t multi-task, focus on one thing and nail it. In my multi-tasking, easily distracted world, this is a book I need to buy.

In Are You Important to Me, Chris experiences the neighborhood-bar-like feel of an Applebees for the first time. “We like to feel known. We like to feel wanted. We like to feel like we belong to something. It’s part of being human,” he writes. He then goes on to apply that insight to social media and how it lets companies create more of a 1:1 relationship with customers. He equivocates in his conclusion, saying this can’t scale but insisting companies need to use these tools to let customers know they’re important.

Seth Godin’s “The goals you never hear about” calls out the fact that too often, our unstated goals are negative – don’t fail, don’t screw up – rather than to actually do something. Being conscious of this makes it easier to change.

Jeremiah Owyang, a senior analyst at Forrester, publishes a weekly digest of the Social Networking Industry. Definitely worth subscribing to if you care about this space.

After reading these and other posts today, I realize a couple of things:

We are just at the beginning of the social media wave. The work companies are doing now is crude but incredibly important, the groundwork for the future.

There are far reaching implications – commerical, social, psychological – in all of this.

It’s human nature to want to avoid risk, embarassment, failure. But if we let those trump our positive goals, we risk even more.

There is A LOT going on – a virtual firehose of trends, developments and ideas that it may or may not be important for you to pay attention to. It’s essential to create space to filter, analyze/reflect and act (whatever your own form of action might be).

A Sense of Well Being

Loss of any kind messes with your sense of well being. Job loss, loss of a loved one, loss of health…. Having experienced a few of those myself recently (not my own health, thankfully), I’ve noticed some things I might not have paid much attention to  in the past. There are little things that help to create a feeling of security when they are full or empty.

The original Morton salt

photo by roadside- pictures

I knew someone once whose mother raised seven children on her own, after her husband developed multiple sclerosis. She went back to school to get her teacher’s degree, and during that time, the family lived on very little money. One of her “full” idiosyncrasies was she always bought a new container of salt when she went to the store. Her kitchen cabinet was always full, even if only with containers of salt.

Here’s my short  list.

I feel a sense of well being when these things are full

  • My car’s gas tank (especially at only $1.65 a gallon)
  • The refrigerator
  • The wood bin
  • My house (with my family)

I know how fortunate I am that I can manage these things, and I don’t take any of it for granted. Too many people right now are struggling to meet these basic needs.

I also feel content when certain things are empty

  • My inbox
  • The drawer where the bills gather before they get paid
  • The kitchen wastebasket

Lately I’ve been experiencing a pretty significant sense of well being – the kind that comes from the really important things in life. The members of my immediate family are happy and healthy. My mother is dealing well with her grief over the loss of her husband of 58 years. I am able to bring security and joy to her life just by being there to provide dinner and share a game of cards. While my employment future is uncertain (whose isn’t these days?) and my retirement fund, like everyone’s is worth a whole lot less, I am still incredibly fortunate.

I try to reflect on these things every day – this helps to expand my sense of contentment. And I try to remember the “contentment mantra” I learned from a budhist monk: I have enough.

My New Twitter Friend: @comcastcares

If you’re anything like me, you hate dealing with large corporate service providers. Phone company, cable company, insurance company — it doesn’t really matter. As soon as I pick up the phone to call, I start to anticipate that a) I’m going to have to battle my way through phone tree hell; b) once I eventually connect with a person, he or she is going to ask me for information I either don’t have at my fingertips or don’t want to divulge; and c) their first line of inquiry into my problem will inevitably put me into a defensive posture. So a lot of times I put off the call in the first place and suffer (or fume) in silence. Not happy. Not good.

Frank Eliason, Comcast Director of Digital Care

Frank Eliason, Comcast Director of Digital Care

So imagine what a breath of fresh air it was for me when, New Year’s Eve, a few days after setting up our new HD TV, I merely dropped a casual line in Twitter: “HD is shiny…. Comcast, why can’t you fix my stuttering signal?” and just seven minutes later got a reply from someone with the username @comcastcares offering to help. A person! Reaching out to me!

I’m not going to go through all the details of what Comcast has done for me as a result of this exchange, but believe me when I say we have been well cared for. In fact, I’m expecting my third or fourth call from Nancy at the Comcast “executive office” (nice touch) today. She got us a prompt service call to begin with and keeps calling to make sure things are alright, since we hadn’t been watching a lot of TV the first few times she called. In the meantime, I pinged @comcastcares (Frank Eliason, director of digital care) on a major outage we had the other day, and he got back to me with what information he could get on the cause of the problem — even though it was hours after he was supposed to be off duty and wanted to go to bed.

All of this is particularly important as companies bundle more services together. We rely on Comcast not only for cable TV but now Internet and phone as well. We need to be able to trust that they’re going to take care of us, and being connected to a clearly dedicated person in one of my most important social networks helps. A lot.

My tweets about @comcastcares caught the attention of Kumud Kalia, CIO of Direct Energy, who was intrigued by the approach. He observed that Comcast is using frequent and sustained interaction with customers to develop deeper relationships and enhance corporate reputation, all the time in the public domain and on free infrastructure. But what was really interesting was Kumud’s musings on where this might go. For example, he wondered if the use of platforms like Twitter might extend to more employee functions so that customers can actually work in concert with individuals – or components –  that are a part of a delivery or supply chain. For example, rather than check the FedEx site to see where your package is, what if the truck carrying your package was tweeting where it was and how close it was to its next delivery destination? What if the package itself was tweeting to you as the recipient, to tell you where it was? The same could work for a service or delivery person (no more four hour windows wondering when they’re going to show up!), an airplane en route to the airport, your daughter’s snowboard to let you know where she is on the mountain… (of course the package and snowboard applications would have to tie a Twitter feed into some kind of geo-location signal). the possibilities are intriguing.

In the meantime, I’m impressed and happy that a company I rely on for critical services is using Twitter so well for customer service. And my experience made some of my Twitter-skeptic friends take another look.

The Risks of Being Risk Averse

The paradox of tough times is they usually call for dramatic measures, yet it’s human nature to keep a low profile and avoid risk, both corporate and personal. This is the dilemma facing CIOs today.

As I wrote in a column a few months ago, incrementalism won’t cut it for many businesses in this economy. But according to Paul Gaffney, former CIO and head of supply chain at Staples and current COO of Desktone, that’s the path most CIOs will take.

I had lunch with Paul yesterday (Blue Ginger in Wellesley – if you go, you have to try the Alaskan butterfish). It seems to me the next few years would provide tremendous opportunities for his company, which provides desktops as a service. After all, that’s one of the main areas this year’s CIO Hall of Famers were enthusiastic about. Gaffney (himself a member of the CIO Hall of Fame) pointed out that this group represented not the market but the vanguard. CIOs like Blockbuster’s Keith Morrow, PG&E’s Pat Lawicki, Bechtel’s Geir Ramleth and Motorola’s (former) Patty Morrison might advocate and take bold action into uncharted territory, because they really do understand the new technologies and business models and can successfully calculate the benefits and risks. But the vast majority of CIOs will try to work within the parameters of what they know to ride out the current economic storm.

This is completely understandable – and even, I suppose, prudent. It would be foolhardy for a CIO to advocate a path that he or she didn’t have a pretty good grasp of.

What this suggests to me is CIOs should be finding out as much as they can as quickly as they can about things like desktop virtualization, software as a service and cloud computing. Because in business as in the law, when it comes to missteps and missed opportunities, ignorance is no excuse.

Paul Gaffney

Gaffney has led IT and supply chain efforts at Staples and Office Max. He's now rolling out new desktop as a service capabilities as COO of Desktone.

Paul Gaffney led IT and supply chain efforts at Staples and built OfficeDepot.com's e-commerce site. He's now rolling out new desktop as a service capabilities as COO of Desktone.

Life After CIO

For 21 years, I’ve been involved with CIO Magazine - for the past 13 as editor in chief. Now that I’m independent, it’s time to start my own blog. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long, but I guess my identity was so tied up with CIO that it just never seemed right. That and the fact that I was already working a gazillion hours a day.

Initially this will be a site to anchor my online presence, provide info about what I’m doing, and share bits of conversations and  insights from the interesting people I talk to every day. Eventually, who knows?

I’m going to spend the rest of this week learning about Word Press and formatting and configuring the site. I’ll also be looking at lots of other people’s sites (today’s favorite is Chris Brogan’s ). Let me know what you like too.

I’m really excited about this — looking forward to doing more than managing things for a change. Jazzed to be in learning mode again. (I plan to take some online classes and maybe a photography course while I’m on “sabbatical.”)

I’m also doing some speaking and consulting – I’ll be writing some about that too.